Transgender Day of Remembrance

Remembering the past and looking forward to the future on Nov. 20

As we celebrate the 13th annual Transgender Day of Awareness on Nov. 20, we wanted to take the time to honor those who have been attacked for being honest about who they are, and to support anyone who may be in the process of living a truthful life. The William Way LGBT Community Center will hold an event on Sunday, Nov. 20 (7 p.m.).

The day was originally started in 1999 as a way to memorialize those who were killed because of anti-transgender hate with a web project called “Remembering Our Dead” that was inspired by the murder of Rita Hester in San Francisco one year earlier. Like many cases like hers, the crime has never been solved. And sadly, during the past decade, more than one person per month has died due to violence.

Today, Transgender Day of Remembrance provides a forum for transgender communities and allies to raise awareness of the threat of violence faced by gender-variant people and the persistence of prejudice felt by the transgender community. It doesn’t only mean people who have made the transition, but also others who may be perceived as different because they don’t necessarily fit into society’s notions about what gender means. Communities organize events and activities including town hall style “teach-ins,” photography and poetry exhibits, and candlelit vigils. These activities make anti-transgender violence visible to stakeholders like police, the media and elected officials.

“This year, at least seven Americans lost their lives because of someone’s hatred for their gender identity,” says Allyson Robinson, HRC‘s director of diversity. “That same hate contributed to the tragic rise in LGBT youth suicides. We must take a strong stand against bigotry – whether it’s coming from candidates for office or a schoolyard bully. In the face of these tragedies and what is sure to be a challenging political landscape, we must forge ahead in our work to foster environments where diversity is embraced and nurtured – not ridiculed.”

Dianne Aubert was stabbed in the back 121 times.

Tara O’Hara had her head bashed in.

Lisa Janna Black was bludgeoned to death by a hammer.

Grace Baxter was choked to death before being dismembered.

Luiz Gastao Pereira Sobrinho was shot by a police officer.

Gracie Detzer was drowned in a bath tub.

Raimundo Nonato was attacked with a machete.

Nizah Morris was left for dead in the street.

And the list goes on.

According to the Transgender Law & Policy Group, an estimated two to five percent of the population is transgender. But a nationwide survey of bias-motivated violence against LGBT people since 1985 found that incidents targeting transgender people account for 20 percent of all murders and 40 percent of all police-related violence. Only a few states (16) have laws protecting transgender people, including California, Washington D.C., Illinois, New Jersey and others. Massachusetts recently passed the Transgender Equal Rights Bill that adds protections.

“The bill is about giving transgender people an equal shot at obtaining everyday basics we all need – a job, a place to live, an education,” says Gavi Wolfe, legislative counsel for the ACLU of Massachusetts.

But many transgender people may find it difficult to find work, are often abandoned by their families and end up living on the streets.